Here is an update that I sent over our list serv on August 18th. Since then, we have received the necessary funds I requested and purchased benches and tables, books, student uniforms, teacher uniforms, and some other necessary materials. However, we have the large need of funds in order to keep up with teacher salary payments and to rent a separate facility to hold school. The main facility where we now hold school is a building we were preparing for an internet center, which funds did not allow us to put into full function, but we hope to open it up for passing tourists to buy jewelry and other work made by local artisans until we have the needed funds to start the internet center. The jewelry group that was begun by a group of volunteers from Virginia Tech in March continues to meet weekly. They have a wealth of products they have made and just need the space to begin selling their items! There is a great building nearby we would love to rent for the school in order to free up the current building to use it for its original purpose: gift shop/internet center. I have a few pictures of the jewelry group meeting and working but not any of the new school materials yet unfortunately. Below is the list serv update from August 18th:
We have learned that when you have a good thing going, others may try to steal it from you... especially in unprotected environments as we are in here. This is what has happened with our grassroots schools lately and we are under serious attack. However, we know that with your help we can overcome this challenge as we have overcome all others. More details as to the attack are explained below if you are interested. I hope you can take the time to thoroughly read the explanation as I think it provides great insight into our situation here and into non-profit work in the developing world in general. As we prepare for the new school year, we have some immediate needs that we are unable to meet and we, therefore, have to send out a desparate plea!
Help Save Our Grassroots Schools
Expense Quantity Indiv. Cost USD Total Cost
Student Uniform 60 15 900
Chair 38 6 228
Table 5 10 50
Chalkboard 4 20 80
Fan 2 55 110
Set of Books 80 15 1,200
Total 189 $121.00 $2,568.00
We need these funds before school begins on September 6th.
A few of our different programs have been under attack lately and all in similar ways. Others are trying to piggy back off of the programs we have already set up rather than reaching out to unserved populations or even take over ownership. When Project Esperanza began working in Puerto Plata in 2006 we specifically sought out the groups in the most need who were not receiving any assistance. We have remained highly committed to those we began working with since then. I will explain what has recently happened with the United Brothers School of Muñoz so that you can further understand what I am referring to.
As explained in the attached “grassroots schools” document, two men founded the United Brothers School of Muñoz in April 2007. After learning of our support of the first grassroots school in Padre Granero, they persistently sought aid from Project Esperanza to begin the school and after resisting for months, we included the school into our organization. Since then, six teachers received monthly pay and other assistance was provided as well. This past school year an adult literacy evening class was added bringing the total teaching staff to seven (two teaching directors and five regular teachers).
During the past year, regretfully, division has been created in the United Brothers School. One of the co-founders and the director of the morning school began soliciting financial assistance from tourists and other groups in the area, lying about Project Esperanza’s support of the school. When the other co-founder and director of the afternoon school saw that this was getting out of hand, he informed me and gave me contact information of a supporter the morning director had gained. After contacting this supporter, I learned that he had begun sending funds from Canada to pay teacher salaries of the school in the morning as well as to provide food for students and had been soliciting funds from his church members in Canada. Food was being provided but no account was given as to the teacher salary money as no teachers had received that. This man was surprised at receiving the information from me. We remained in communication and he stopped sending funds for teacher salaries (he had only just begun sending funds) but continued sending money for food, although not through Project Esperanza.
At a meeting with both directors and all teachers present, it was obvious who the guilty party was. The morning director displayed destructive, selfish, and counteractive behavior for the remaining of the school year, often locking classrooms with locks which only he had the key to so that other teachers and students could not get in to hold class. He did this simply to display his declared authority. We also continued to hear accounts of him untruthfully soliciting to foreigners that passed through the area. The rest of the teaching staff attempted to finish out the school year strong despite this division but on the last day of school, the morning director boarded up the entrance to the building, causing the afternoon school staff to break off the boards in order to enter and hold final exams. Halfway through the exams, the morning director came in and ordered all of the students to leave. It has been sad to see that this man completely lost interest in what is best for the students and the community and is letting his hunger for power and money get the best of him. It is a lesson for the community to see.
The morning director seemed far from repentance so five of the now seven staff members and I decided to attempt to ignore him and abandon the building of conflict, renting a different facility nearby to continue school during the 2010-2011 school year. This is often what has to be done in such situations where one does not want to counteract attacks of brutality as there is no hope that the police or any other authority figure will intervene to bring about necessary justice. One teacher, the morning director’s girlfriend, is sticking with him although she stated that she would’ve continued with Project Esperanza if we had invited her. During meetings after the conflict began, she already proved to be supporting the morning teacher’s dishonesty as she was likely benefiting from it as well which is why we didn’t invite her to continue with us.
I continually updated the Canadian supporter to let him know the mayhem that was occurring. I was confused by this man’s reactions. He was reluctant to back out of the situation or become a supporter through Project Esperanza as would have been the two appropriate responses after learning that his involvement had come about in such a dishonest manner that was obviously empowering negative and destructive behavior. I kept reiterating the fact that the morning director was abusing his power and should not be receiving funds anymore and that we needed to collaborate in any efforts because division did not need to be created in the already marginalized community by the splitting of schools, causing parents to have to choose where to send their students and making a statement that two foreign aid “institutions” needed to fight over one community rather than doing the most logical thing and spreading out to areas of more need. I reiterated several times as well that if we could not work together then he should allow me to put him in contact with one of the several schools that were attempting to function in other areas of Puerto Plata that were without any aid. This is also outlined on the attached “grassroots schools” document. Project Esperanza could not abandon this community after having worked here since 2007. The teachers already have relationships formed with parents and students and we did not intend to abandon that.
I saw that this man and Project Esperanza would likely not be able to work together because it appeared through conversation as though this man was only comfortable being in the position of authority and in making decisions and I was not willing to submit to his leadership. It is clear that he is completely ignorant to Haitian culture, the education systems in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, lacks the language skills to communicate effectively with the staff, students, and parents, and is not present in the country except for at most a few weeks out of the year. Additionally, he is an individual who was solicited to while simply passing through the area on vacation. Project Esperanza is a non-profit organization registered in both the United States and the Dominican Republic whose sole purpose is this line of work. I have been living here full time for almost three years now and have been working in the Puerto Plata community with Project Esperanza for five years now. I have been 100% dedicated to Haitian education in the Dominican Republic and have been teaching in Haitian Creole along with Haitian teachers since I’ve been here, continually attempting to create the best practices for the specific population we serve. I have been immersed in Haitian culture and am married to and have a child with a Haitian man. I am in constant communication ...To Be Continued in another update.
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